Reading Reimagined

Teaching my kids to read has (so far) been one of the most rewarding – but hardest! – things I’ve done as a mom.

I’ve learned that reading is not automatic for every child. I wish I’d known that earlier, but that’s why I’m sharing this post. Some kids are reading confidently when they’re 5, just adding new vocab along the way. Some kids are working very hard at all of it until they’re 10. And everything in between.

Some children need very little guidance. They see the words and just take them in like a sponge. That was me when I learned to read. Other kids need really explicit instruction, especially in phonics. And phonics instruction is totally different from just reading aloud with your kids. It’s a whole methodology that you really do take step by step beginning with phonemic awareness when kids are young.

A can be ā or ä or short a (not sure how to make the breve mark on the computer)

S can be s or z

etc.

If a child needs a lot of explicit phonics instruction, it’s very different work from just sitting side by side and helping them through a book.

To help anyone on this journey, I wanted to share a few resources that I’ve used (or wish I had used!) to make things a little easier along the way. There are tons, literally tons, of articles online about the best ways to teach reading, textbooks on the subject, lots and lots of opinions (strong ones!), but in the end, it’s really about what works best for you and your child. It’s so great if you’ve never had to utilize any of these resources, if your child just picked up reading like riding a bike, but if you’re struggling, I hope some of these will be helpful.

**Note: I have not included the ever-popular BOB books which we used early on, but they’re great if your child gets into them.

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Confession: I got this book when my first-born was about 4, thinking that I would use it to teach him to read by age 5. When we started, I found the method confusing and I abandoned the book a few lessons in. What I realize now is that there were two things going on:

1) I didn’t realize that my son was going to be on the slower side of reading (I thought he should be picking it up faster if the book was working)
2) The reason the book was confusing to me is that I hadn’t needed much understanding of phonics when I learned to read, so it was like a foreign language and I just didn’t see how it could work

Now I wish that we’d kept at this book. And I’ll use it for my other kids.

Here is an article from the Atlantic that talks about this particular book. It was shared with my by a professional reading instructor.

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When it comes to more phonics instructions, I’ve really liked the books from Logic of English. I don’t incorporate their handwriting practice (although I think they have a really really interesting approach), but for learning the different phonograms, etc. from an early age, these are great resources (and they have little videos on YouTube that go along with this book if you aren’t sure yourself how to make the sounds!)

This program is pretty comprehensive, so you might want to check out their site and read more before diving in: logicofenglish.com

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Explode the Code! Reading really is a code and it’s fun to think of it that way when you’re teaching a child that’s having a harder time.

I didn’t do these with my first child, but I probably will with the others, especially if I see signs that someone may need a little more help.

You can read more about which program might be good for your child on their site: Explode the Code

ADDENDUM: A few weeks after writing this post, I’ve explored some of the reading/phonics content of The Good and the Beautiful and I am really impressed. I think we will be using this for the rest of 1st grade, 2nd grade and when my next son starts K.
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Readers that are engaging and in line with the child’s interests:

For my son this was Star Wars readers 🙂

I’ve really had to find ways to make reading fun to make it stick. Basically, I thought about what was most interesting to my child (e.g. Star Wars) and got readers based around that theme. That’s when reading really started to click. There are World of Reading sets of all different levels and all different themes. And many other titles as well – Penguin Young Readers, Ready to Read, Step into Reading, etc. They’re so many at the library, it’s only a matter of finding a theme or style that really engages the reader.

Recently I accidentally stumbled into a really good strategy for encouraging more independent reading. I began reading aloud a Nate the Great book, but couldn’t finish because I needed to cook dinner. My son was already hooked by the mystery, so he finished the book on his own right away. About 20 minutes of reading time that I didn’t have to enforce.

Reading/Writing/Spelling practice that correlates with the child’s interests:

Here’s another example that we’ve incorporated for writing and spelling that involves Minecraft. My son has loved going through these lessons. There are different levels based on your child’s age/grade.

Even if you’re not homeschooling some of these might be helpful to supplement in areas where your child is having a tough time.

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The following are some interesting reads for parents, about reading. It’s a fascinating subject and the way that the brain decodes the written word is really just amazing. It would have been great to read some of these before I started into homeschooling…

Note: I don’t necessarily espouse everything I read in books like this, but I find that reading widely on this subject just helps me better understand the landscape around the question: What is reading??
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Finally, other activities that have helped us with reading:

-Composing and reading letters from friends and family
-Composing and reading text messages from grandparents (maybe one of our favorite reading activities!)
-On-line games (oh screens, they’re sometimes very helpful!)

And, the very most important of all, reading aloud. I know it take a lot of time and energy (and often all I want to do is hide away in the bedroom and curl up with my own book). But these books forever changed the way I approached reading aloud with my kids. I can’t recommend them enough.

I hope this is helpful. Thanks for coming on this journey with us!

These links are affiliate links. If you wish to purchase from your local bookstore, please do so, or you can order online from Parnassus Books.